If you’re fully vaccinated, there’s no longer a requirement to wear a mask in most places you go in Arlington.

There are exceptions — notably at the airport, in schools, and in healthcare settings — but most businesses are now following CDC guidelines and allowing the fully vaccinated to go mask-less.

There was, of course, a time in the pandemic when masks were very necessary to slow the spread of the disease and save lives.

Most masks worn by members of the general public are of the cloth or disposable surgical variety, which are moderately effective at preventing transmission, mostly by the wearer. That made masks an important public health tool during a pandemic caused by an airborne virus that can be highly contagious before an infected person shows symptoms.

Cloth and surgical masks are not as effective at filtering inhaled particles — and thus preventing the wearer from becoming infected — as the N95 masks used by healthcare workers, but are generally seen as better than nothing, particularly when worn in crowded settings indoors.

With about two-thirds of eligible Arlington residents at least partially vaccinated, and average daily new infections in the low single-digits, a fully vaccinated person wearing a surgical or cloth mask in most situations is conveying very little public health benefit. Rather, if anything it’s more of a societal signal — a thoughtful, if unnecessary, courtesy to those around you.

Many in Arlington, we’ve observed, are still wearing masks by default when entering a business, like a restaurant or a store. Perhaps some are not vaccinated, while for others it’s out of habit or uncertainty about which businesses still require masks.

This morning we’re wondering: what is your default regarding masks when stepping into a business?

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Morning Notes

Arlington House’s Hidden History — “On Tuesday, the historic mansion in Arlington National Cemetery reopens after a renovation that has recaptured the glory of the house, along with clues to the secret lives of the enslaved Black people who were the main occupants of the land where it stood.” [Washington Post, NBC 4]

Developer Looks to Expand in Arlington — “One of JBG Smith Properties’ top executives handling the company’s massive Arlington portfolio — and its relationship with Amazon.com Inc. — has jumped to another developer. Longtime JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy Van Horn made the move to Dweck Properties on May 17… he aims to transform Dweck from a small family company with a focus on apartment management to an active developer of properties in National Landing,” [Washington Business Journal]

Smash and Grab Theft in Pentagon City — “At approximately 6:57 p.m. on June 5, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male suspects entered the business, smashed the glass display cases containing merchandise, stole several items and fled the scene in a waiting vehicle.” [ACPD]

County Board Resumes In-Person Meetings — “After more than a year participating in meetings largely from their own rec rooms or similar spaces, Arlington County Board members will be back on the dais later this month. ‘The board is looking forward to holding board meetings and interacting with the community in-person safely and responsibly,’ County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]

Baby Deer Found Near Fire Station — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This tiny (and we really mean tiny) fawn was found in the parking lot of a local fire station. Due to his location and condition, our officers knew they had to step in and help this little guy. He is now safe and sound with a local wildlife rehabber!” [Twitter]

GOP Questions Dem Caucus — “A key leader of the Arlington County Republican Committee last week mused publicly whether the powers-that-be of the Arlington County Democratic Committee put their thumbs on the scale to help a School Board candidate across the finish line. The Democratic leadership, in response, said the GOP attack line is based on a faulty supposition.” [Sun Gazette]

Masks Still Required Inside APS Buildings — “Fully vaccinated individuals may now remove their masks when outside on school grounds and are exempt from quarantine if identified in contact tracing. Masks are required for everyone while inside our facilities and schools. These measures are subject to change as we anticipate additional revised guidance for schools prior to the start of the new school year.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Man Clinging to Side of Overpass Stops Traffic — “I-66 and a portion of N. Glebe Road [are] currently blocked due to a man who was hanging off the side of the overpass. The man is now in police custody and the roads are reopening.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Car Chase Speeds Through Arlington — “Virginia State Police just chased a U-Haul pickup truck from Arlington into Alexandria on Mt. Vernon Ave, then back into Arlington and finally into D.C. via I-395.” [Twitter, Twitter, ALXnow]

Masks Not Required at Polling Places — “Those headed to vote in the June 8 Democratic primary in Arlington will have to make their own choices about mask-wearing. State election officials this time have not provided local elections offices with specific guidance on masks, although Arlington election officials have issued a request. ‘Several polling places are in schools with mask requirements, so we are still encouraging voters to wear masks, and will have them available for voters who forget one,’ county election chief Gretchen Reinemeyer told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]

Chicken Restaurant Eyes Arlington — “It turns out that Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers has a bigger appetite for Greater Washington than the two Northern Virginia locations the Washington Business Journal reported about in May. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based chain aims to open around 50 locations across the region… the company is actively pursuing sites in Arlington, Ashburn and Leesburg, among others.” [Washington Business Journal]

AWLA Reopening Shelter to Public — “We are very excited to announce that starting Wednesday, June 2nd, AWLA will be open to the public! Potential adopters no longer need to make an appt to meet our in-shelter pets — just stop by!” [Twitter]

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(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) A man filmed children wearing masks at a local playground while accusing their parents of “child abuse.”

The encounter happened on Tuesday at the Rocky Run Park playground near Courthouse. It was caught on video by one of the parents.

“Look at these kids — child abuse, child abuse, suffocation, suffocation,” the man says while filming the playground with his smartphone, after claiming that he runs “a very popular YouTube channel.”

“You understand that most people are vaccinated right now?” the man says to the woman filming him. “Why are these kids in masks outside? You understand how harmful that is to their mental welfare?”

“Leave me alone, you’re stressing my baby,” the woman responds.

The idea that having kids wear masks during the pandemic is a form of abuse was popularized by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

“Your response when you see children wearing masks when they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid at Walmart,” the host told viewers in April.

So far, only children ages 12 and up are eligible for vaccinations. While children can be infected and get sick from COVID-19, deaths have been relatively uncommon — 300 reported Covid-related fatalities among those under the age of 18 during the course of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The husband of one of the moms at the park who was harassed says police were called but the man had already left when they arrived.

“The person who took the video is our friend,” he tells ARLnow. “All our children have been playing together since the pandemic and all wear masks, even though we the adults are fully vaccinated. This guy approached my wife and her friends when the kids got back to sip water.”

“He start yelling at them, that they were doing ‘child abuse’ for ‘forcing’ our kids to wear masks, and saying all that conspiracy theory speech,” the husband continued. “He start filming our kids, and yelling… and as you can see in the video all children start running away from him. My wife call me and also called the police. Police arrived but he was already gone.”

“He was riding one of those electric skateboards and took off,” the husband added. “Cops were not too concerned said filming kids is not illegal, but advice not to confront him. Another friend said same guy harassed her with his two children by Courthouse Plaza, and someone in Nextdoor said she was approached by the same guy near Whole Foods Clarendon.”

The incident outside the Clarendon Whole Foods took place last week, according to a post on Twitter. The man reportedly called a woman a “child abuser” in front of her mask-wearing child.

Reached for comment about the park incident, the Arlington County Police Department said the man’s actions did not amount to a crime.

“At approximately 5:17 p.m. on May 25, police were dispatched to the 1100 block of N. Barton Street for the report of disorderly conduct,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, the reporting party advised that a male subject had been yelling and filming children playing inside a park. The subject had left the scene prior to the arrival of police and a search of the area concluded with negative results. The investigation determined no crime had occurred.”

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Morning Notes

Photographer Taking Silly Cicada Snaps —  “Oxana Ware is a talented photographer based out of North Arlington, but along with her business side, she likes to have fun and be a little silly at times. That’s why it just seemed right to her when she decided to have a full photoshoot with cicadas, complete with handmade props.” [WJLA]

County Marking Sit-In Anniversary With Art — “It was delayed a year due to the pandemic, but a commemoration marking the 1960 civil-rights sit-ins in Arlington is now beginning. The Arlington County government had planned to mark the 60th anniversary of sit-ins at Arlington lunch counters with special programming on the Arlington Art Truck, using prints by artist Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. to immerse the public in the experience, in 2020. But the effort was a victim of the pandemic – until now.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington-Based Axios Making Moves — Digital news outlet Axios, based in Clarendon, is launching local news publications in a number of cities this year, including Washington. It is also reportedly in discussions to be acquired by a German news conglomerate. [Washington Post, Marketwatch]

Masks Coming Off For APS Athletes — “It looks like Arlington school officials have abandoned their masks-on policy for most athletes while engaged in competition.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Assists with Potomac Search — “Person seen going into Potomac River & not resurfacing… [After a search involving D.C., Arlington and other water rescue teams, medics] transported an adult female in critical life threatening condition. Law enforcement will investigate the circumstances.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Secretary Pete at DCA This Afternoon — “U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Mary Kay Henry, International President of the two million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will host an immigration roundtable discussion with 32BJ SEIU’s airport workers at National Airport (DCA).” [Press Release]

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(Updated at noon) For the second time since March 2020, no new coronavirus cases were reported in Arlington County over the past 24 hours.

The county’s cumulative case count remained at 15,272 this morning, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. The last time there were zero new cases in a given day was in July 2020, during last summer’s lull.

The seven-day trailing total of new cases in Arlington dropped to 33 today, another new low point since the outset of the pandemic.

Arlington’s neighbor to the south, the City of Alexandria, also had no new reported cases today, according to VDH.

In another positive sign, the test positivity rate in Arlington has been falling rapidly. The seven-day moving average reached 1.5% today, down from nearly 5% on April 1.

Across the river yesterday, D.C. joined Virginia and Maryland in following Centers for Disease Control guidance and dropping its mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated.

The updated mask rules in Virginia, per a summary from Arlington County, are as follows.

On Friday, May 14, Governor Northam announced the following, based on the recent CDC recommendation; increasing vaccination rates among Virginians; and dramatically declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and positive tests:

  • Masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated individuals in most indoor settings (see Executive Order 72 for exceptions).
  • Anyone who is not yet vaccinated is strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.
  • Employees who work in certain business sectors–including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment–must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, consistent with CDC guidelines.
  • Masks continue to be required in K-12 settings, given low rates of vaccination among children.
  • Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments if they choose to.
  • Other exceptions include public transit, health care facilities, and congregate settings.

Those 12+ years of age who are not yet vaccinated can find a county-run clinic here.

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) The rate of new coronavirus cases in Arlington has hit another low — the lowest point, in fact, since around the start of the pandemic.

As of Sunday, the trailing seven-day rate of new cases was 38, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. The last time the one-week total of COVID-19 cases in Arlington was that low was March 26, 2020, when tests were hard to come by and cases were almost certainly being undercounted.

Six additional cases were reported Monday morning, bringing the seven-day rate up slightly to 41. It was the eighth straight day of single-digit case counts, a streak also not seen since the outset of the pandemic.

The most recent Covid-related death in the county was reported last Wednesday. Despite the collapsing case counts, hospitalizations remain at a rate above last summer’s lull: nine hospitalizations over the past week.

Following updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, Virginia on Saturday dropped its mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated.

CVS, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Costco and Target are among the national chains to make masks optional for vaccinated customers.

Some local businesses are also updating their mask policy. Bearded Goat Barber, for instance, this morning announced that masks are optional for vaccinated customers and employees, though customers can ask for their barbers to wear masks. The Ballston barber shop also announced that it will be resuming beard trims.

While the new mask guidance has received pushback from some healthcare professionals, who say it was issued too early and will endanger lives, others say it reflects the reality of falling case rates and the science behind vaccines preventing transmission of the disease.

Arlington’s rate of administering vaccine doses, meanwhile, has been falling. As of this morning a total of nearly 205,000 Covid vaccine doses have been administered, bringing the seven-day trailing average to around 1,600 doses per day, less than half the peak rate from April. A total of around 124,000 Arlingtonians have received at least one vaccine shot and 93,000 have been fully vaccinated, according to VDH data, which excludes those who were vaccinated by the Dept. of Defense and other federal agencies.

Those 12 years old and up are eligible to receive free vaccine shots at county-run clinics, which are accepting both walk-in patients and appointments.

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Virginians who are fully vaccinated can ditch their masks for most indoor and outdoor situations effective tonight at midnight, Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon (Friday).

He also moved up the end date for all distancing and capacity restrictions to Friday, May 28. Virginia was already preparing to ease some restrictions tomorrow (Saturday), but as of today, all distancing and capacity restrictions will end on Friday, May 28 — two weeks earlier than planned.

“This is a tremendous step forward,” Northam said in a video message. “Virginians have been doing the right thing, and we’re seeing the results.”

As of today, Virginia has administered nearly 7 million vaccine doses and 63% of adults have received at least one dose, the governor said in his announcement. In Arlington, nearly 200,000 doses have been administered and over 60% of the adult population has received at least one dose.

COVID-19 case numbers, meanwhile, have fallen to levels Arlington and the Commonwealth have not seen since last summer.

Northam’s announcement comes on the heels of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yesterday (Thursday) the CDC said fully vaccinated Americans will no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local or tribal laws, or business and workplace guidance.

There are some exceptions to the new masking guidance. Businesses can still require coverings and masks will also still be required in schools, he said.

“It’s very simple: It’s either a shot or a mask,” Northam said. “It’s up to you.”

Between now and May 28, Northam urged every eligible Virginian — now anyone ages 12 and up — to get vaccinated and join the two-thirds of Virginia adults who have received at least one shot.

“The vaccines are clearly working and they are saving lives,” he said. “We have plenty of shots available. It will protect you better than anything else.”

Image via Gov. Ralph Northam/YouTube

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Morning Notes

Va. May Lift Most Restrictions Next Month — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday the state could lift most of its COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by mid-June, about 14 months after the state initially put those measures in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Northam said the state is planning to do away with social distancing requirements and restrictions on gathering sizes on June 15, provided coronavirus cases continue to drop and the pace of vaccinations does not let up.” [DCist, InsideNova]

Allegations of Hazing at ACFD Academy — “Over a year ago, firefighter EMT recruit Brett Ahern alleged extreme bullying and hazing at the hands of one firefighter who was an instructor with the Arlington County Fire Department’s Training Academy… there were other victims. Witnesses are speaking out on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.” [WDVM]

Mask Mandate for APS Athletes Questioned — From Sun Gazette Editor Scott McCaffrey’s blog: “Based on feedback we’ve been getting from our sources in the high-school-sports world, Arlington Public Schools has become something of a punching-bag of ridicule for its ongoing policy of requiring student-athletes to wear masks even in situations where it not only serves no good.” [Sun Gazette]

Woman Flees Knife-Wielding Robbers — “The female victim was outside her parked vehicle when she was approached by two male suspects. Suspect One brandished a knife and demanded her cell phone and money. The victim then ran to and entered her vehicle without providing any of her belongings. The suspects fled the scene when a witness approached the vehicle.” [ACPD]

Internal Pick for County Planning Director — “Arlington County has selected Anthony Fusarelli, Jr. to be the County’s new Planning Director after a nationwide search…. Fusarelli has worked in the County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development for 15 years and most recently served as Assistant Director. In this role he was responsible for development agreements and land deals, strategic initiatives, and demographic and development data research and analysis.” [Arlington County]

Warning About Rabid Cat in Falls Church — “The City of Falls Church Police and the Fairfax County Health Department are urging anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a cat in the last fourteen days that matches the below description to please contact either agency immediately.” [City of Falls Church]

Bob & Edith’s Opening in Alexandria — “Bob & Edith’s Diner will open on King Street later this year, the company confirmed on Wednesday. The diner will take the place of Ernie’s Original Crab House, which closed in April, at 1743 King St. just a few hundred feet from the King Street Metro station.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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It’s safe for those who are fully vaccinated to skip wearing masks outside in most situations.

That’s according to new federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Biden announced the new guidelines Tuesday, as vaccinations continue at a quickening clip locally but are slowing nationally.

Walking down the street, running, laying on the beach, and dining or hanging out with small groups of people you know — all can now be maskless for the fully vaccinated. The only exception: you should still wear masks when among large outdoor crowds.

“Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re outdoors… and not in a big crowd, you no longer need to wear a mask,” Biden said.

The new CDC guidance will not immediately change Covid restrictions in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and his administration are reportedly considering relaxing the state’s mask mandate, which requires wearing masks outdoors if you cannot maintain social distancing. The mandate generally exempts outdoor exercise.

In Ballston yesterday evening, plenty of people could still be seen walking down the sidewalk with masks on. While mask wearing in such a setting doesn’t hurt, it’s probably unnecessary if you’re fully vaccinated at this point, according to the new guidance.

When walking outdoors in a populated but uncrowded public setting, when will you feel comfortable going maskless?

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Morning Notes

Local Teacher Finalist in TV Contest — From Stacey Finkel, Kenmore Middle School PTA President: “Eurith Bowen, Functional Life Skills teacher at Kenmore Middle School, has been named a finalist for LIVE with Kelly and Ryan’s Top Teacher search. Eurith Bowen is a phenomenal educator who teaches from her heart, and has inspired an entire community to embrace students in a very special way. Eurith teaches students who are identified as having disabilities.” [Live with Kelly and Ryan]

Bridge Repair Work Underway — “Work is underway to rehabilitate the North Glebe Road (Route 120) bridge over Pimmit Run, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation… This summer, North Glebe Road between Military Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) will be closed for about nine days to efficiently replace the bridge deck and beams.” [VDOT]

Most Choosing In-Person Learning in Fall — From Superintendent Francisco Durán: “Based on preliminary results from the family selection process, an overwhelming number of families are choosing to return in person in the fall… Previous communications stated that we are planning for both normal capacities as well as developing contingency plans should 3-foot distancing be recommended; however, we want to be transparent that 3-foot distancing is not feasible with the enrollment we are anticipating.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Masks for Youth Sports Questioned — “An Arlington County softball dad created a petition to take on the county’s school system on sports and mask mandates. The school system’s spokesperson sent FOX 5 an emailed response on Tuesday, affirming student athletes will be required to wear masks during competition until the end of the school year… Nearly 300 people have signed the petition made for 500 signatures, calling for the Arlington County Public School’s Superintendent to drop the youth sport mask mandate.” [Fox 5]

Milk Spills into Stream from I-395 — “If you see a white substance in Long Branch Creek, don’t have a cow – it’s just spilled milk, according to the Arlington Fire Department. The department said an incident on Interstate 395 led to a milk truck leaking ‘approximately 50 gallons.’ According to a tweet, that milk has made it into Long Branch Creek near South Troy Street.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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